The Legend of Ulenspiegel by Charles de Coster Book I Chapter 24

At the end of the Rue Notre Dame there were two willows planted face to face on the edge of a deep pond.

Ulenspiegel stretched a rope between the two willows and danced upon it one Sunday after vespers, so well that all the crowd of vagabonds applauded him with both hand and voice. Then he came down from his rope and held out to all the bystanders a bowl that was speedily filled with money, but he emptied it in Soetkin’s apron and kept only eleven liards for himself.

The next Sunday he would fain dance again on his rope, but certain good-for-nought lads, being jealous of his nimbleness, had made a nick in the rope, so that after a few bounds the rope broke in sunder and Ulenspiegel tumbled into the water.

Whilst he swam to reach the bank the little fellows that cut the rope shouted to him:

“How is your limber health, Ulenspiegel? Are you going to the bottom of the pond to teach the carps to dance, dancer beyond price?”

Ulenspiegel coming out from the water and shaking himself cried out to them, for they were making off from him for fear of his fists:

“Be not afraid; come back next Sunday, I will show you tricks on the rope and you will have a share in the proceeds.”

On Sunday, the lads had not sliced the cord, but were keeping watch round about it, for fear any one might touch it, for there was a great crowd of people.

Ulenspiegel said to them:

“Each of you give me one of your shoes, and I wager that however big or little they may be I will dance with every one of them.”

“What do you pay if you lose?” they asked.

“Forty quarts of bruinbier,” replied Ulenspiegel, “and ye shall pay me three patards if I win the wager.”

“Aye,” said they.

And they each gave him a shoe. Ulenspiegel put them all in the apron he was wearing, and thus laden he danced upon the rope, though not without trouble.

The cord slicers called out from below:

“Thou saidst thou wouldst dance with every one of our shoes; put them on then and hold thy wager!”

Ulenspiegel, all the while dancing, made reply:

“I never said I would put on your shoes, but that I would dance with them. Now I am dancing and everything in my apron is dancing with me. Do ye not see it with your frog’s eyes all staring out of your heads? Pay me my three patards.”

But they hooted at him, shouting that he must give them their shoes back.

Ulenspiegel threw them at them one after the other into a heap. Therefrom arose a furious affray, for none of them could clearly distinguish his own shoe in the heap, or lay hold of it without a fight.

Ulenspiegel then came down from the tree and watered the combatants, but not with fair water.